[Dave Birch] According to APACS there are now more than 140 million plastic cards in use in the UK, with almost 68% of spending accounted for by debit cards. This year, total plastic card use is expected to top £320 billion, against a predicted £277 billion of cash payments. One of the reasons for the growth in cards is, naturally, the growth in POS terminals and (insert fanfare sound effect here) the UK’s one millionth POS terminal has gone online (well, the one millionth TID has been issued, which may not be the same thing). As of August 2006, APACS say that of the 900,000 “face to face” (ie, attended) POS terminals in the UK only 50,000 are not chip and PIN.

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There’s no urgency around that last 50,000. The UK’s biggest retailer, Tesco, say : “Fraud levels at our self-service checkouts and petrol pumps are very low and no higher than at our main checkouts, which have full chip and PIN.”

There are still millions of places where you can’t use cards, of course, such as the parking machines round the corner from our office, but I’m sure that will change in time. Meanwhile, in the land of the rising phone bill, the idea that you would use anything as old-fashioned as a card to buy something from a machine is already fading now that Coca-Cola have said that it will accept mobile (contactless) payments at all of its 200,000 machines by the end of 2008. The march of Felica (the e-purse developed by Sony that it integrated into NTT DoCoMo phones) continues.

Reading this reminded me of an amusing (and, if I remember my rather poor English Literature Ordinary Level properly, allegorical) conversation I had at a conference a few months ago. I was chatting to a guy in the smart card world. His company had a stand (to do with EMV cards) at an exhibition in Japan. Opposite the stand was a drinks machine. He wanted to stop his Japanese partners from buying drinks from the machine using their mobile phones because he wanted them to use cards, but eventually he gave up…

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